A Double Dose of Collaboration
On Tuesday, I attended a women’s centers retreat at Duke University to meet with representatives from women’s centers at regional universities. Representatives from Duke, Wake Forest, NC State, NCCU, and UNC-CH shared resources and discussed best practices and ideas for programming. Topics of discussion included promoting feminist leadership, working with student interns and volunteers, gender violence prevention, social media strategies, and collaborating with other campus and community organizations.
The discussion on collaboration was especially interesting since the retreat itself was collaborative and presented future opportunities for regional women’s centers to work together. We talked about successful collaboration models, how to build relationships across campus and in the community, and when not to collaborate. As an MPA student, public administrators seem to have a love/ hate relationship with collaboration. On one hand, it can be a great way to share resources and serve more people, but it can also be less efficient. Negative aspects like this certainly came up in our conversations at the Women’s Center retreat, but there was an overwhelmingly positive attitude toward collaboration that was contagious.So with that in mind, I wanted to share some insights from the discussion on collaboration:
1. Go out of your way to meet people and network. At a large university there are lots of departments and individuals you may not cross paths with unless you reach out to them. This is also a good strategy when collaborations with certain groups are usually centered around something negative, like interpersonal violence or bad press. Several representatives talked about the difference meeting for regular lunches has made for their collaborations across campus.
2. Do something for other organizations before asking them to support you. Several representatives shared examples of reaching out to other campus departments offering support at programs or events. In return, those departments were much more interested in collaborating with the women’s center in the future.
3. Have a clear bottom line of what your organization is and is not willing to do. Collaboration isn’t always a good idea, especially if something doesn’t fit with your organization’s mission or vision.
Meeting representatives from other women’s centers made me aware of a final positive effect of collaboration that I hadn’t given much thought before. Something about just meeting and interacting with these individuals, discussing shared experiences, and having someone to relate to was really comforting and motivating. Equally as valuable as sharing resources and best practices was having a feeling of community and support from the other members of the collaboration.